Meet The Drum’s US 50 under 30 honorees from the Southwest

Each day this week, The Drum has been highlighting 10 of the 50 talented women that make up our inaugural 50 under 30 in the US, a list that is celebrating women across the country who are putting themselves - and their cities - on the map via their creativity, achievements and dedication to an industry that is changing at a fast clip.

Today we are featuring our honorees from the Southwest. Each was chosen with the help of a judging panel that included MullenLowe Los Angeles executive creative director Margaret Keene, Colle McVoy executive creative director Laura Fegley, Arnold Worldwide chief creative officer Icaro Doria and Barker EVP-creative director Sandi Harari.

After receiving nominations from readers, the judges helped choose the final 50, who will also be featured in the October issue of The Drum's magazine.

Below, our finalists from the Southwest discuss career achievements, advice they’d give to those just starting out in advertising and favorite things about living and working in their respective cities.

Find out more below and read about our other 50 under 30 honorees here.

Kaitlyn Coffee, art director at Greenlight in Dallas, Texas

What brand means the most to you?

I thought about this one for a while…and my answer is Chevy. Every car I have ever had has been a Chevy and I intend to keep it that way for the rest of my days. My Chevy’s have taken me across the country to college, on a three day camping trip to Bonnaroo, to my first advertising job, to the hospital to have my son and countless other life events. I hope to one day go on a cross-country road trip in a Chevy. Also, what other brand goes by their nickname?!

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date was working on The Invictus Games last year. The Invictus Games is an event created by Prince Harry where wounded soldiers from all over the world come to compete in athletic events, helping them to heal and rehabilitate physically and mentally. My team and I created the branding for the first Invictus Games in the United States. We were challenged with coming up with a look, feel and theme that would help transition the brand to the U.S. Learning these wounded soldiers stories and telling them in a visually and impactful way was one of the great honors of my career.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Never settle. Never settle for a job that doesn’t fit your vibe. Never settle for your idea not being taken seriously. Never settle for being “just okay.”

Laura Guardalabene, designer at GSD&M and co-founder of JUNK-O in Austin, Texas

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

I co-founded JUNK-O in April of this year on the side of my full-time job at GSD&M. We design and sell enamel pins inspired by pop culture and progressive political ideology. It’s been an immense amount of work but extremely rewarding as well.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal. Her book, Girl Boss, about how she started her company, inspired me to finally get my shit together and apply for my dream job at my dream agency. Girl Boss really resonated with me because Sophia’s story of success wasn’t glamorous or easy, it was filled with hard work, determination and creativity.

What brand means the most to you?

Adult Swim on Cartoon Network has played a pretty big role in my life. Their original programming helped shaped me as a teenager and further fueled my creativity and interest in dynamic storytelling through design.

Diana Martinez, copywriter at LaneTerralever in Phoenix, Arizona

Why do you like living and working in Phoenix?

Well, I’ll throw the native card down. It’s interesting, and I’m sure a bit odd these days, to be born, raised, educated and working in the same area code. I know my city, and the way it moves and grows. As a journalist a handful of years ago, it served me well. As a writer, it’s important to be tapped into a subject, person, or brand as well as say your hometown, so you can portray it and tell its story accurately.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Don’t be afraid to fail. And when you do, fail forward. If you look at them the right way, failures can be launching pads. Much of the creative process is about exhausting every dumb idea, every cheesy line, every flat concept, until you somehow get to something good. But you can’t get there on the first try. So don’t be afraid. Treasures sometimes hide under piles of garbage.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

In life, I’m motivated by the fact that my best is still yet to come. In writing, I’m inspired by people. We always hear that a brand is a person, with a personality. And it’s honestly true. Listening to people, the way they engage with each other, their behaviors, their motivations, and tapping into what makes us utterly human is inspiring. Equally so, there’s always another chord to hit with someone. The human experience is so rich and interwoven, knowing there’s always going to be something to write about that someone else can relate to pushes me forward.

Samyu Murali, junior art director at Wunderman in Austin, Texas

Why do you like living and working in Austin?

From the people to the food to the art, Austin is an eclectic mix of things that provide inspiration everywhere and anywhere you go.

What brand means the most to you?

Disney is one brand that means a lot to me mainly because it was a brand that I grew up with. They do a great job of using storytelling to create a perfect brand experience for their customers. I also really admire the World Wildlife Fund for all they do to conserve the environment and reducing our ecological footprint.

What is your biggest professional achievement to date?

Being able to work in an industry and job that I love. I’m also very proud of our student entry for Cannes Young Lions that I was part of with some fellow students from SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). We had limited time to execute our idea but in the end, we made it work.

Courtney Roberts, art director at Littlefield Agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Why do you like living and working in Tulsa?

Honestly, I always thought I would find myself in a larger city by now, but there are a lot of reasons why I love being in Tulsa. I grew up here and I love being a part of making a difference in the community that helped raise me. Being able to give back through my work is an honor I don’t take for granted. Because the market is fairly small, every opportunity is big. This allows me the chance to work on projects I might not otherwise have in a larger city. Although Tulsa is changing and growing, it still manages to keep its small-town feel. And that’s why it will always feel like home to me.

What brand means the most to you?

I have always loved the simplicity of Target’s advertising. It is sharp, yet whimsical and stylish all at once. They seem to have the perfect balance of humor, color and storytelling to win over their audience at every turn, and the consistency of their brand, whether buying a gallon of milk, designer bandaids, or new dorm room furniture, makes shopping feel fun and engaging on every aisle. I fall for it every time.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

Experimenting creatively outside of the office inspires me. I’m always dabbling in new creative expressions like hand lettering, attempting watercolor, or decorating my home. Who I am outside of work inspires and motivates me in my profession. I’m always looking for opportunities to use these skills in my work, whether it’s using calligraphy in a campaign or styling a shoot.

Rachel Shin, account supervisor and digital strategist at Cohn & Wolfe in Austin, Texas

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

Challenging an eye care brand to think beyond pharma and into lifestyle has been one of my proudest career achievements. Despite the many regulations and long-running processes, working alongside a team that thinks outside the box has allowed me to lead digital efforts that have encouraged over 410K people to care about and ask for contact lenses by name.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

Seeing my immigrant parents sacrifice all they had to provide a better life for my brother and me has been the driving force in all that I do. I hope to one day be as loving, selfless and determined as they are.

What brand means the most to you?

As cliché as it sounds, my own. No one else will fight for you and understand what you stand for until you speak up and create a sort of equity for yourself.

Jenna Simmons, art director-design & multimedia at Propac in Plano, Texas

Why do you like living and working in Plano?

Our agency is around the corner from the burgeoning Legacy developments in Plano, Texas, so there are plenty of breezy patios, after-work activities, craft dining, and a few nearby ponds & trails. If it isn’t 100 degrees (thanks, Texas) and time permits (#agencylife), I take a short lunch-time walk to step away and refresh.

What brand means the most to you?

I have always found something compelling in Kate Spade New York’s whimsical brand personality. The colorful, quirky and sophisticated aesthetic creates a refreshing, unique flair that speaks to me as a designer.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

It’s advice that I continue to give myself, and that is: be ambitious, fiercely passionate, and eager to push your boundaries to learn more. In the dynamic, demanding, and evolving creative industry, it’s key to diversify your skill set to stay on the cusp of innovation and emerging technologies.

Kate Rush Sheehy, Group Strategy Director at R/GA in Austin, Texas

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

I was a part of the motley crew that opened the doors of R/GA’s Austin office in 2012. It’s gratifying to have had a hand in growing the office from 4 people in a temp office space to 40 people in a buzzing office in the middle of downtown Austin.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

Former Governor of Texas Ann Richards. Bold. Strong in her convictions. Not afraid to say what was on her mind. The appropriate amount of sass. And, not least of all… Texan. Things I try to emulate in all aspects of my life.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

When you’re early in your career, it’s easy to get focused on people-pleasing. When I started out, I often asked my managers “how can I help?” What I’ve learned and try to preach to the teams I work with now is that if you have to ask what to do next, you’ve missed an opportunity to show how smart and thoughtful you are. Don’t just be an order taker, be a thought partner.

Ashley Formanek, senior digital producer at Drumroll in Austin, Texas

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

One of my biggest career achievements is probably the risk I took straight out of school, though at the time I questioned myself. I packed up my car and drove 16 hours, leaving home with no job. Despite being unfamiliar with agency culture and at times feeling overwhelmed, I managed to network my way into my first agency role. Now, I spend my days with smart, amazing people building innovative, exciting things. Not only am I proud of the things we develop, but I’m proud to be in a position that helps others bring their creativity to life.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

I’d have to say the spirit of competition and desire to be the best. When I was younger, I had full intentions of becoming a collegiate athlete. You’d always find me on a court or in a field practicing. One season would end, I’d switch my cleats for sneakers, and the next would begin. Over the years, I’ve loved that each one of these sports challenged me in a different way, each placing me with a different group of individuals with different skills. It’s about having that drive to practice and work hard to better oneself in hopes of bettering the team. They say that you’re only as good as your competition, which is why I always try to surround myself with people who will push me to improve.

Why do you like living and working in Austin?

Have you heard of the Texas diet? You know, breakfast tacos, BBQ, unlimited queso, have I said breakfast tacos? But, really, Austin is a city full of energy. Entertainment can be found everywhere. The city hosts multiple music festivals, parties where all of us nerdy tech creatives gather (SXSW), people are actively running on trails and kayaking, you name it. It doesn’t hurt that the advertising culture in Austin is pretty awesome, too. Whether we are all dressed up like fools racing big trike bikes around, lip-sync battling in full costumes, or trying to out-ping pong one another, you can always attend events throughout the year that allow you to meet and mingle with other creatives in the field.

Carly Carson, account lead at PMG in Fort Worth, Texas

What brand means the most to you?

I admire Airbnb because they are the perfect example of a disruptor. They found an authentic way to connect people across the globe, and uproot an entire industry.

Why do you like living and working in Fort Worth?

I love living in Fort Worth. It has a quirky, laid back vibe, and you wouldn’t expect to be able to find digital agencies here in the land of cowboys and rodeos.

What’s one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Bring your full self to work. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and human -- giving it your all will help build trust with your teams, empathize with your coworkers and clients and break down the barriers that limit your creativity.

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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